To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


   NEW YORK (September 13) - Kazuhiko Ikematsu carved out a 6-2 win over Nikolaos Loizidis of Greece and moved into the 66-kg semifinals of the freestyle wrestling world championships. With the score even at 2-2 in the second period, Ikematsu hit a double-leg takedown for three points at Madison Square Garden to nail down the win.

  Ikematsu becomes the first Japanese wrestler since 1995 to reach the semifinals of a world meet. Takahiro Wada, now Ikematsu’s coach on the national freestyle team, and Hiroshi Kado were each semifinalists in the 1995 world meets on their way to silver medals at 62 kg (freestyle) and 48 kg (greco-roman), respectively.

  Ikematsu, the runner-up at the Asian championships in June, will square off with European champion Irbek Farniev of Russia in the semifinals Sunday, September 14. Meanwhile, Chikara Tanabe lost to Uzbekistan’s Dilshod Mansurov at 55 kg in a repeat of last year’s Asian Games final and had to settle for seventh place. Kunihiko Obata took European bronze medalist Murad Gaidarov of Belarus into overtime, but fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals.

  Obata, however, appears to have qualified for the Olympic Games in Athens. Results of the championship bracket qualifiers would leave Obata in 10th place, but official placings will only be announced later. The top 10 place-winners in the men’s competition and the top five place-winners at 48 kg, 55 kg, 63 kg and 72 kg for the women will be given berths in the 2004 Games.

  In the women’s competition, Kyoko Hamaguchi prevailed in a battle of world champions as five Japanese marched into the semifinals of their respective weight categories. Hamaguchi fashioned a 4-0 win over 2000 champ Edyta Witkowska of Poland to keep her campaign for a fifth world title on track. Defending champions Saori Yoshida (55 kg) and Kaori Icho (63 kg) recorded falls to move into the semifinals while securing Olympic berths along with Hamaguchi.

  Chiharu Icho (51 kg), world runner-up a year ago, and Seiko Yamamoto (59 kg), seeking a fourth world title, booked semifinal berths in non-Olympic weight categories. Makiko Sakamoto went down to two-time former world champion Irina Melnik of Ukraine in the 48-kg quarterfinals, but appears to have done enough to book the fifth and final Olympic ticket on offer in New York at the lightest weight category.

  The men’s and women’s field for the Olympic Games will be filled out in secondary qualification competitions in February and March.